“I was working for the Brussels Philharmonic with a background in classical symphony. At that point, everything was moving to digital formats except for sheet music. We thought someone else would solve this, but most of the solutions didn’t go much farther than delivering sheet music as a pdf file.”
So Van der Roost, with co-founders Bob Hamblok and Jonas Coomans, set out to create a platform that addressed the shortcomings of other sheet music delivery systems.
“We decided it should be interactive, it should adapt to your screen,” says Van der Roost, “it should have the content we love, everything from Bach to Beyoncé.”
The end result was neoScores, a platform focusing on Digital Rights Management for sheet music. To date, neoScores has partnered with Schott Music, one of the oldest and largest sheet music publishing houses in Europe, and Alfred Music, a major American music publisher.
“We want this to be the iTunes for sheet music,” Van der Roost says. “The first goal that we have is to change the way people buy sheet music, by giving them instant gratification.”
One of neoScores’ biggest obstacles is the number of sites allowing users to pirate sheet music. “We’re in a universe where everybody uses Napster. We want to come in and be iTunes.”
Van der Roost maintains that neoScores would not be able to exist were it not for online access to the global marketplace. “Music, by definition, is almost always global. We rely on the fact that it should be possible for anybody to access content. Let’s say you live in Peru and you want to access French music. How can you do that? Before you couldn’t. So we need to make sure people can access the Internet.”
neoScores is intent on being global and local, delivering music on a global basis while understanding and engaging local markets. “There is always a local part to music. In the United States, 20 percent of sheet music sales are Christian music. This is non-existent in Europe. That was something we needed to learn. In France, two-thirds of the top 50 hit singles are French.”
Van der Roost strongly supports the idea that startups pursue global opportunities from the beginning. “Look for help; governments are doing great things. The Flemish government has a ‘Go Global Fund’ via the iMinds incubator that pays for travel for going abroad. With things like that, with accelerators and incubators, there is assistance available if you know where to look.”
Van der Roost suggests that for a global business to succeed, it is important to experience the markets in which you seek to compete. “Embracing different cultures is key. It’s important that you open up to Asia, to the United States, to Africa, to experience what’s happening on the ground, to understand those opportunities in the global marketplace.”